Grief and Loss during this Pandemic Times
Our lives are full of loss and grief. Though there are times we experience great swells of joy, we also experience deep depths of sorrow. No sorrow is deeper than the sorrow of loss.
Grief can be defined as the normal and natural emotional reaction caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behaviour. We tend to associate grief with the loss of a loved one, but the emotion may arise with any significant change in our life, such as being pulled out of work or school and forced to stay quarantined in one’s home for months.
While Christians are not immune from such feelings, our union with Christ should lead us to deal with grief in unique ways.
When Jesus saw Mary weeping over the death of her brother Lazarus he was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” and began to weep himself (John 11:33-35). Even though Jesus knew he would soon be bringing Lazarus back from the dead, he was still overcome with the emotion of losing his friend. When we experience loss, we should take comfort in knowing God loves us.
We can grieve knowing others share in our grief, even if the loss was not their own. We can truly “mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15) because of the unbreakable connection we believers have to one another through Jesus.
“The Bible does not dismiss or minimise grief, and we shouldn’t underestimate its impact,” says Elizabeth Groves, author Grief Undone: A Journey with God and Cancer. “But we grieve differently than those without hope.” As Paul said, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).
Nothing is more shocking, emotional, or final than the death of a loved one. Facing the death of someone you love—a child, a spouse, a parent, a close friend—is one of life’s most difficult experiences.
Your head is spinning with so many thoughts, feelings, and emotions. You can’t grasp that you’ve had your last visit, your last conversation, your last meal, and your last holiday with your loved one. Your mind is flooded with things you wish you had said or done. You want to say, “I love you,” one more time, and you want to hear it said to you.
Your warehouse of memories is filled with fond and painful remembrances, and you are holding tightly to that treasured collection of fading photographs. You don’t feel ready to say goodbye or to deal with the grief that’s overtaken you.
When you are dealing with grief your emotions race and your thoughts are scattered. In the middle of this confusing and hard time, you need to remember a few simple truths from the Bible. God will use them to help you understand what you are experiencing and to give you hooks on which to hang your emotions.
You can’t prepare for the death of a loved one. Whether death results from a sudden accident or a long illness, it always catches us unprepared. Death is so deeply emotional and stunningly final that there is nothing you can do ahead of time that will help you sail through your moment of loss. Those who knew that death was coming and those who were taken completely by surprise will go through many of the same things.
The Bible includes many poignant stories that mirror our experience. The story of the death of David’s son, Absalom, gives us a picture of a grieving parent.
Absalom plotted to take David’s place as king of Israel. When his rebellion was crushed, he was killed, even though David had ordered his soldiers to take him alive. David knew that Absalom’s actions might lead to his death, but that didn’t lessen his grief. 2 Samuel 18:33 (ESV) tells us, “And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
David’s cry is the cry of every grieving parent. Whether it is unexpected or predictable, death shakes us to the core. The pain is inescapable. Don’t feel guilty or embarrassed if you feel unprepared to face it. There’s no way to be ready for what you are going through.
Good can come out of the very worst of things. Is death a bad thing? Yes. But the Bible tells us that the brightest of good things can be found in the midst of evil’s darkness.
The death of Jesus Christ is a powerful demonstration of this truth. On the hill of death outside the city, the best thing that ever happened came from the worst thing ever. What could be worse than the killing of the Messiah? What could be more unjust than the illegal execution of the one perfect person who ever lived? In the sermon he preached on the day of Pentecost, Peter said that Jesus’ death was an evil thing done by evil men to the one truly good person in the whole world (Acts 2:22-36).
But this terrible moment was under God’s control. God planned that this ultimate evil would accomplish ultimate good. In this dark moment, as Jesus died on the cross, God defeated sin and death—two enemies we could not defeat on our own.
In the same way, God can and does bring wonderful things out of the darkest moments of our lives. Our Lord is present with us in the darkness. He has planned that even the darkest of things would result in redemptive good for His children. He surrendered His Son to death so you could have life. And He will not abandon you now.
The reason we have hope is that as Christians we grieve temporarily. We grieve genuinely but hopefully because we grieve temporarily. Our grief will come to an end. Paul proves this by pointing back in time, then pointing forward: “For since we believe that [in the past] Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will [in the future] bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). Paul anchors future hope in past reality. He first points back in time to the historical events of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus truly died and truly returned to life and his resurrection is a promise, a proof, and a down payment that we, too, will return to life. What happened to him will happen to us. If it wasn’t for Jesus we’d have no hope. But Jesus rose so we have the greatest hope.
Having pointed back, Paul points forward. “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” He goes from the past to the future. He points forward to the time when Christ will return. He points forward to the time when the great promise will be fulfilled. At that time those who are dead and those who are alive will be reunited. They will be united to Jesus and live together forever. Here is how the passage continues: “The dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” Our hope for the future is that we will be with the Lord. We will be with the Lord together and forever. Those who have gone before and those who remain will be reunited in the presence of Jesus Christ.
Because Jesus conquered death, they will conquer death. Because Jesus lives, they live.
While our loved ones have left us, they have not ceased to be. They’ve simply gone on ahead. Because Jesus rose again, they will rise again. Because Jesus conquered death, they will conquer death. Because Jesus lives, they live. And so we grieve. We grieve in times of loss and our grief may last many days, weeks, or years. The pain is real, the sorrow is real, so the grief is real. But we grieve hopefully because we are convinced we grieve temporarily. No wonder, then, Paul concludes in this way: “Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
In the moment of loss, when you get that phone call, that utter disappointment, that painful email, a dream is shattered, a massive disappointment, something you thought would never happen — and you feel in those first hours, “There’s no way I can live with this. There’s no way I can live with this.”
God’s timing is very mysterious in its effects because the next day it’s a little different, and the next day it’s a little different. A week later it’s a little different. Everybody moves at different paces, but God uses time and grace to take away the sense of impossibility of life.
Psalm 40:1–3 states, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”
If in your grief you struggle to pray or read the Bible, ask someone to pray for you and read the Bible to you. Grief is really, really hard. It hurts like crazy. But the Lord has broken death’s power, and therefore His children who have died are with Him. And He is with us. And before you know it, we will be together with Him and with them. That removes death’s sting—it really does. Even in the rending ache of grief, with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can hang on to Jesus and grieve with the hope that His death and resurrection bought for us.
God is a Healer and Redeemer. In all of the sorrow and confusion, our hope in grief resides in the reality that God can restore anything.
A Grief Observed - C. S. Lewis
Grief Undone: A Journey with God and Cancer - Elizabeth Groves
Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief - Martha Whitmore Hickman
You'll Get Through This : Hope and Help for Troubled Times- Max Lucado
Bearing the Unbearable :Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief- Joanne Cacciatore